Above: Lalana Fedorschak, SOFT PART, glazed ceramic sculpture, upholstered lounge
Oscillating between familiarity and foreignness, fascination and disgust, subject and object, Lalana Fedorschak’s exhibition RECEIVER at houseguest gallery explores fundamental questions about the body. As viewers walk up the stairs, through the porch, and into the front room that serves as houseguest’s exhibition space, they are met with bodily fragments sat atop small pieces of furniture. The artist depicts mounds of flesh in ceramic with eerie accuracy; modeled after her own physique, the sculptures both invite and reject the viewer’s gaze. Fedorschak posits the body as a communicator: a giver and receiver of pleasure, pain, and other base human sensations.
In DAYDREAM, tongues wrap around one another as if desperate to connect. This piece contains the sole depiction of a face in the exhibition, though it lacks a nose, eyes, or ears. Touch and taste are the paramount senses here, as the mouth is open in an expression of ecstasy. One of the tongues clearly emerges from the mouth, but the other is more mysterious in origin—like a snake, it slithers around the figure’s neck to choke it. Is this tongue friend or foe, self or other? Fedorschak does not provide answers to questions like these, instead providing space for viewers to consider them.
Fedorschak intertwines depictions of the body with materials that reference domesticity throughout RECEIVER. In a dual role of physical display and conceptual component, quilted fabric, sofas, and plush carpet gently cradle the ceramic sculptures. The artist says in the exhibition statement, “[I use] domesticity as a metaphor for interiority, an observation of the self.” Rather than exploring universal truths of the body, this intense self-reflection says more about Fedorschak herself and the spaces she is most comfortable. After all, the home is a reflection of oneself, adorned in ways that unveil the personality and inner truths of those who dwell within.
Evoking the poise and strain of a figure drawing model, SOFT PART is emblematic of contradictions that are innate to corporeality. The nude torso is instantly recognizable as such, but the odd curves and fluidic flesh recall the viral photo of a blobfish that was subject to decompression damage.1 Without a face to return the viewer’s gaze, the figure offers themselves to it while simultaneously sinking away. This tension carries over to the miniature chaise lounge that the ceramic sculpture sits atop. This type of sofa was created for wealthy individuals to be able to rest without retiring to the bedroom; it provides comfort, but its stylized design prevents a fuller relaxation that one could get on a full-sized couch or in bed. The contradictions that Fedorschak plays with in SOFT PART parallels the experience of our consciousnesses that both inhabit a body and are distinct from it. She refers to these in the exhibition statement as “plural selves, alienated and integrated with one another.” RECEIVER becomes a venue for the viewer to have this conversation with themself, to see their own bodies cut up and on display–Fedorschak’s work can be disquieting, perhaps due to this very cognitive dissonance.
In works like HOME, TIGHT, and WORM (DIPTYCH), the artist employs unintelligible modes of representation that collapse boundaries between other and self. The first hangs on the wall inside a twee decorative frame; while its presentation suggests painting, the work is actually ceramic. Further complicating initial assumptions, HOME seems to depict the mons pubis and legs pressed together, but its minimalism enables the viewer to see anything from a scar to an orifice. TIGHT, on the other hand, lacks any explicit reference to anatomy as if conjured out of the artist’s memory. There is a sense of wrongness when looking at the sculpture, an uncomfortable compulsion to identifying it. In WORM (DIPTYCH), Fedorschak limits the scope of our gaze while photographing her own body. Bolstered by the tight cropping and pink backgrounds, the folds of flesh become just that—distanced from any sense of self. The title encourages us to not even see the forms as human, instead finding likeness in an invertebrate.
In most galleries, RECEIVER would struggle against the high walls, open space, and commercial interests. At houseguest, however, the work and innately domestic interior come together to create something transcendent. The proximity of actual living space to the work collapses boundaries between public and private, giving the exhibition a sense of immediacy that further engages its audience. Fedorschak initially pulls the viewer in with the visceral nature of her ceramic works, then encourages them to ponder the nature of representation, the connection between body and mind, and other complex questions. This is the strength of her work: she does not endeavor to answer questions, only to ask them. With their ever-shifting and sometimes indecipherable forms, each piece offers a new opportunity to challenge long held beliefs and see anew.
- Blobfish photo, via Smithsonian Magazine
Kevin Warth (he/him) is a Louisville-based artist and art historian whose research emphasizes queer identity, alternate temporalities, and hauntology.
Lalana Fedorschak, DAYDREAM, glazed ceramic sculpture, faux fur pelt
Lalana Fedorschak, HOME, glazed ceramic, oil paint, resin
Lalana Fedorschak, TIGHT, glazed ceramic sculpture, upholstered shelf
Lalana Fedorschak, WORM (DIPTYCH), digital prints